By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
The local sporting community’s push to get back in the swing of things gained some headway on Friday after it was announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the resumption of practices and conditioning for professional and national basketball and football teams.
During his daily media briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced the IATF decision to allow the conduct of health-enhancing physical activities and sports amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as recommended by pertinent government agencies.
The decision paved the way for the return to some activities of sports organizations like the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and Philippines Football League (PFL).
“It was agreed upon in the IATF to adopt the decision of the technical working group. The Philippine Sports Commission, Games and Amusement Board (GAB) and the Department of Health approved the joint administrative order on the guidelines on the conduct of health-enhancing physical activities and sports during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Roque.
“[That means] practices and conditioning of basketball and football are now allowed upon the request of the PBA and other football organizations,” he added.
In the lead-up to the decision, the PBA, along with other sporting bodies like the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), made representations to the GAB for guidance to convince the IATF, the lead body in the country’s fight against COVID-19, to allow sports to return gradually, first with practices and then for matches to resume in different leagues.
Their request was formally discussed by GAB with the IATF’s technical working group, and GAB Chairman Bahm Mitra said it was warmly received.
The PBA has been in hiatus since March 11 after it decided to suspend its season with COVID-19 taking further root in the country and mitigating measures by the government against the spread of the virus made it impossible to hold the staging of the matches.
The league said a lot hinged on the IATF decision for it to get the ball rolling towards resuming activities.
“It all depends on the IATF. We have sent our letter of request to IATF and we’re just waiting for the response. We’ll just wait for the response and see after. If even practices are not allowed, basketball may not push through at all. So, we’ll see,” PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said.
In recent weeks, the PBA conducted meetings and consultations, including with players, to discuss health and safety protocols to be implemented once activities resume.
The PBA is set to make a final decision on the continuation of its season in August.
The PFF, for its part, is also bracing for a possible return of activities, crafting its own protocols and making adjustments to its calendar of events.